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The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between (2016)

de Hisham Matar

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6503335,965 (3.92)98
"In 2012, after the overthrow of Qaddafi, the acclaimed novelist Hisham Matar journeys to his native Libya after an absence of thirty years. When he was twelve, Matar and his family went into political exile. Eight years later Matar's father, a former diplomat and military man turned brave political dissident, was kidnapped from the streets of Cairo by the Libyan government and is believed to have been held in the regime's most notorious prison. Now, the prisons are empty and little hope remains that Jaballah Matar will be found alive. Yet, as the author writes, hope is "persistent and cunning." This book is a profoundly moving family memoir, a brilliant and affecting portrait of a country and a people on the cusp of immense change, and a disturbing and timeless depiction of the monstrous nature of absolute power"--… (mais)
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Novelist Hisham Matar is the son of a major opponent of Muammar Qaddafi. When he was young, Hisham's father was kidnapped and disappeared by the regime. This book is about his quest to find out what happened to his father in the depths of Qaddafi's prisons.

Matar entertains some hopes that his father is not dead, and tries his utmost to learn where he is and to bring about his release, and the release of those imprisoned with him. He presents his father as a wise, poetry-loving gentle soul who had a fierce love for his country, which brought him into inevitable conflict with the dictator.

This book is heartbreaking at times, especially in the parts when Hisham must deal directly with Qaddafi's inner circle to finally learn his father's fate. This brush with evil is enough to give the reader the creeps; one can only imagine how hard it must have been for Matar.

A thoughtful and eye-opening book. ( )
  gjky | Apr 9, 2023 |
En marzo de 2012, treinta y tres años después de haber pisado por última vez la tierra de sus orígenes, el autor de este libro regresó a Libia junto a su madre y su mujer. El derrocamiento de Gadafi había abierto un tiempo nuevo en el que cabía la esperanza de refundar una sociedad devastada por los abominables crímenes de la dictadura, recuperando un sistema de valores basado en la justicia y el respeto por la vida humana.

Sin embargo, más allá de soñar con un país en libertad y progreso, en la mente de Hisham bullía el deseo de cerraruna herida profunda y dolorosa que había marcado su vida y la de su familia. En 1990, su padre, Jaballa Matar, un próspero y culto empresario, amante de la poesía y líder de la disidencia en el exilio, había sido secuestrado en El Cairo y confinado en una prisión libia. Seis años más tarde, las escasas noticias que llegaban se interrumpieron: el rastro de Jaballa se perdió definitivamente.
  fewbach | Jan 5, 2023 |
A short, heartfelt, and beautifully executed book. Hisham Matar is the son of a former Libyan diplomat who became a major figure in the anti-Qaddafi resistance movement. Betrayed by Hosni Mubarak's government and imprisoned for years in Libya's most notorious prison, he hadn't been heard from for years when the Arab Spring toppled Qaddafi's government. It's evident that the author loved and respected his father: the memories of him he recounts here fairly teem with emotion. But this is mostly a book about absence and uncertainty. It's clear from fairly early on that, when Qaddafi's government fell, the chances of finding Jaballa Matar alive were extraordinarily slim. Still, the author clings to the hope that he might be reunited with his father someday. Even so, the author -- whose capacity for analyzing his own emotions and motives is truly extraordinary -- senses that hope can become its own kind of punishment, and that holding on to his father's memory limits his own life in many ways. Hisham Matar was, after all, about ten when his father disappeared -- he is aware that he has lived with his father's absence longer than he actually lived with his dad. It is a real credit to Matar as a writer that he can so fully articulate the way that his father's absence has shaped his experience of the world. Loss is, I suppose, a universal human experience, but I can honestly say that this is one of the best books I've ever read about it.

There are a few other reasons to read "The Return". The author's interactions with Saif Qaddafi -- the dictator's "reformist" son -- and his lackeys provide a fine portrayal of a sort of evil that comes off simultaneously bland and unnervingly unapologetic. This book also provides a wonderful portrait of the geography, culture, and social dynamics of the Arab world. His descriptions of Libya are nothing short of painterly, and his love for the country's landscape and architecture comes through very clearly. His description of the Libya's Mediterranean seacoast and its ocean made me wonder how much a ticket to Tripoli might cost me at this time of year. My experience of the Arab world is relatively limited, but Matar's descriptions of the way that people in Libya -- and especially those in his enormous family -- communicate, argue, and show affection for each other is both wonderfully detailed and extremely accessible to the Western reader. Matar describes, for example, the gatherings of his enormous family or meetings with his neighbors in a way that makes you feel like you are not just present but also understand what every social cue and expression really means, and this makes for an extraordinarily intimate reading experience. Likewise, Matar's descriptions of his interactions with his neighbors gives you an idea of how small and isolated a place Libya can really be. It seems that it's the kind of country where everyone knows everyone.

And this gets at the heart of something else that makes "The Return" a really special book. It's clear that even though it was written in English, that this is a fundamentally Libyan story told by a Libyan. Matar's family is from Benghazi, a city that is synonymous, in the West, for the attack on an American consulate that killed four Americans and caused a major political scandal in the United States. We don't hear a word about that in "The Return", though, because actual Libyans had other things to worry about and deal with at the time. This is pretty refreshing, and an important reminder that the rest of the world keeps existing even after headlines in the United States have shifted their attention elsewhere. "The Return" is a short book, but the emotions it contains are so vivid -- and so well-articulated -- that it took me a while to read. It's hardly an easy read, but I recommend this one highly. ( )
  TheAmpersand | Oct 31, 2022 |
Hisham Matar’s memoir about his search to find out what happened to his father, Jaballa Matar, an opponent of the Qaddafi regime, who was imprisoned in Libya in 1990. Matar spent is youth in Libya. For safety concerns, the family moved to Egypt, where his father was abducted. Hisham Matar spent over two decades trying to find out what happened. He eventually gained access to Libyan officials, including the son of the Libyan dictator, who promised to disclose what happened but never delivered. Other family members were also imprisoned, and Matar worked for their release.

The book touches on Matar’s personal history, studies in the UK, and writing career. It reflects a struggle with identity and a longing for home. He obviously has a great love for his country. It is a lyrically written and moving memoir. It is not a comprehensive political analysis of the history of Libyan conflicts. It mentions several but supplemental reading will be required to get a more complete picture.

This book vividly portrays the emotional impact of not knowing the fate of a loved one. The reader can feel Matar’s frustration as he is put off time after time, saying the information will be forthcoming “tomorrow or the day after.” I particularly enjoyed the way he conveys the power of literature and art in providing solace during times of trouble.
( )
  Castlelass | Oct 30, 2022 |
This is Hisham Matar's memoir of his search for his father as he tries to find out if he is alive or dead. As long as he doesn't have evidence of his death, he has hope. During this long search, Mata inevitably contemplates the idea of death. The passages left quite an impression, though I can't remember much of it now. Good read, though I was left quite confused by the timeline of events initially and hence took a while to get into the book. ( )
  siok | Aug 14, 2022 |
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"In 2012, after the overthrow of Qaddafi, the acclaimed novelist Hisham Matar journeys to his native Libya after an absence of thirty years. When he was twelve, Matar and his family went into political exile. Eight years later Matar's father, a former diplomat and military man turned brave political dissident, was kidnapped from the streets of Cairo by the Libyan government and is believed to have been held in the regime's most notorious prison. Now, the prisons are empty and little hope remains that Jaballah Matar will be found alive. Yet, as the author writes, hope is "persistent and cunning." This book is a profoundly moving family memoir, a brilliant and affecting portrait of a country and a people on the cusp of immense change, and a disturbing and timeless depiction of the monstrous nature of absolute power"--

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823.92Literature English English fiction Modern Period 2000-

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